Surrounded by larger retailers, Essex retailer Mital Patel decided to focus his store on value alcohol at prices big chains couldn’t compete with. With Bargain Booze’s support, Mital is now turning over an impressive £17,000 a week. Steven Lambert reports

How do you get your convenience store to stand out in a crowded local market full of competition from large supermarkets and discounters? Become a destination for shoppers and do whatever you can to be different is the advice from retailer Mital Patel.

Having consistently grown sales year on year at his Bargain Booze Select Convenience Store in Brentwood, Essex – despite his 700sq ft business being surrounded by larger retailers such as Sainsbury’s and the Co-op – Mital knows a thing or two about making the most of every opportunity presented to him.

He says: “Before we started here five years ago, the unit used to be an old Threshers. I thought the only thing that would work here would be an off-licence franchise. So we joined Bargain Booze. They invested a lot of money into the business initially and have supported us ever since. We’re now turning over £17,000 a week, which is really good for a small store.”

Working with Bargain Booze

Mital says his close relationship with Bargain Booze has been invaluable in helping his business to prosper, particularly when it comes to sourcing highly sought-after alcohol products which shoppers can’t find in the multiples.

“There are certain other alcohol products that Matthew Clark sells at £9, but we get these discounted and are able to sell them on at lower prices with good margins. Our prices on average are around 10% cheaper than the supermarkets.”

“With the company buying the Matthew Clark business, we’re getting a lot more exclusive products,” says Mital. “For example, Bong Vodka is popular here, which can retail for around £70 for a one litre bottle online, but we sell for £24.99 in a 70cl bottle.

Mital says he makes an average margin of between 10% and 15% on his alcohol range, adding this can go up to around 20% on growing categories such as ales.

The store stocks an impressive range of more than 80 ales, from big name brands to craft and locally-produced tipples.

“Some of our bestsellers are Sierra Nevada and Doom Bar, but we also work with local suppliers including the Brentwood Brewery, which have a number of award-winning ales.

“It is an emerging market – more people are moving away from lagers and are looking to try new things.

“It’s helped us to become a destination for shoppers. We have customers who will call us after seeing what we stock on the Bargain Booze website, and we now have people travelling here from around 20 miles away.”

Working with other franchisees

Mital says he also learned a lot through Bargain Booze franchise meetings, which take place every six weeks. He says: “We can meet other franchisees and see what they’re doing well and share good practice. Head office also invites suppliers down to show what’s new and where the market is going.

BB-Wine“We’ve introduced changes to our store as a result. For instance, we’ve been using new wine planograms since December, and we’ve gone from grouping wine by country of origin to grouping it by grape variety, such as putting all the chardonnays together. Our wine sales have gone up by around 15% as a result.”

Mital adds that Bargain Booze’s retail portal, Fuse, has also helped him to attract more shoppers to his store.

“They have all sorts of advice on there – for instance, Bargain Booze has a master of wines who offers tips on which wine to pair with which food, and we’re passing on this knowledge to customers. We’re also doing gift wrapping for special occasions.”

Mital says he is now looking to expand and is already on the lookout for new sites. He says: “We’re a family-run business but my mum and dad are looking to retire and the plan is to open a bigger store with me managing staff.   

“With the extra room, we’ll look to focus more on convenience and introduce services like food to go.

“The market is constantly evolving and we need to evolve with it.”